Former champion and second seed Grigor Dimitrov begins his bid for a first title of the season when he faces Sam Querrey in the second round of the Intrum Stockholm Open on Wednesday night.
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Grigor Dimitrov starts his quest for a second Intrum Stockholm Open title on Wednesday night against the big-serving Sam Querrey.
Dimitrov has a fantastic 17-6 record in Stockholm, beating then World No. 3 David Ferrer for the title in 2013, while he also finished runner-up to Tomas Berdych in 2014 and Juan Martin del Potro in 2017. The Bulgarian also made the semi-finals in 2016 and was a quarter-finalist in 2015 and 2011, with his only first round defeat coming in his debut appearance at the tournament way back in 2009 – is he set for another deep run in the Swedish city this week?
With just 12 match wins before the U.S. Open, 2019 was starting to look like one of Dimitrov’s worst seasons since turning pro, but he managed to turn things around at Flushing Meadows, beating Alex de Minaur and scoring a marquee win over Roger Federer in five sets to make the semi-finals, where he was knocked out in straight sets by Daniil Medvedev. Dimitrov improved his ranking from No. 78 (his lowest ranking in seven years) to No. 25 as a result of that run, but the Bulgarian has failed to build on that run since departing New York, winning just one match against Dan Evans as he lost to Alexander Bublik in Chengdu and Andrey Rublev in the opening round of the Shanghai Masters last week.
I did wonder at the time if Dimitrov’s U.S. Open semi-final run was more about him playing well or receiving a fortuitous draw and taking advantage of an ailing Federer in the quarter-finals, and right now it’s looking more like the latter. Nevertheless, it was a much-needed rankings boost for the former top 10 star, who was inching closer and closer to dropping out of the top 100. With some ranking security, can Dimitrov play without pressure for the remainder of the season and make an impact during the indoor swing? He will take confidence from his great record in Stockholm as he begins his campaign on Wednesday night against a man he is 3-0 against.
Sam Querrey is playing the Intrum Stockholm Open for the third time in his career, with his previous two appearances resulting in an opening round main draw defeat in 2015 and a first round qualifying loss in 2016 – however, the big-serving American is off the mark this week, scoring his maiden victory at the tournament, beating Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak by a 7-6(6) 6-4 scoreline.
Querrey’s career-best season came in 2017 when in addition to beating World No. 1 Andy Murray and making the Wimbledon semi-finals, he won two ATP titles in Acapulco (beating Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the final) and Los Cabos and also advanced to the U.S. Open quarter-finals. After finishing runner-up at the New York Open in February 2018, Querrey hit his career-high ranking of No. 11, but he only made two more quarter-finals for the season, and by the end of last year he was outside the top 50. Not much has changed in the last 12 months, with Querrey coming into Stockholm at No. 50 in the world, with the 32-year-old registering a 21-14 record for 2019, with his best results coming during the grass season when he finished runner-up in Eastbourne and made the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Querrey has a poor record against Dimitrov, losing all three of their previous encounters – although this will be their first match in over two years. In theory, Querrey should enjoy the indoor conditions in Stockholm with his booming serve, but he can struggle with his motivation at this time of the year outside of the USA, and with Dimitrov consistently making it deep into the Stockholm draw, the Bulgarian should be able to post a fourth straight win over Querrey to make the quarter-finals.